1. Introduction

Transitioning Australian cities to net zero is crucial to reducing carbon emissions, protecting its citizens from major climate change impacts, increasing access to nature and increasing livability for those who live, work and visit our cities.

More than two thirds of all global carbon emitted occurs either in or because of cities, particularly from energy use in buildings and transport.

Urban areas are also at the forefront of major climate change impacts: 77 per cent of 520 major world cities are expected to experience climate conditions different from their current climate by 2050.

The high concentration of carbon emissions in Australia’s cities presents a unique opportunity for decarbonisation and resilience.

Rapid decarbonisation of cities through targeted measures is critical to achieving Australia’s climate targets, and can only be achieved through significant transformations in the urban environment supported by adequate multi-level governance and finance mechanisms.

Net zero cities are urban areas, including regional towns and centres, that have reduced emissions to as close to zero as possible across seven key systems – energy, transport, buildings, water, waste, food, and green infrastructure – and that only use offsets for any remaining, hard-to-abate emissions.

These seven systems are essential and influence liveability, resilience, equity, access to services, and health of the people who live, work and visit these urban areas.

Put simply, tackling climate change in the urban environment is about building better lives and livelihoods for people.

The mix of public and private development in cities creates a number of key challenges that must be overcome to accelerate the transition to net zero.

This includes difficulty in financing net zero initiatives, a complex governance structure and variety in urban form/fabrics.

To decarbonise a city across the seven systems, coordinated, focused and consistent policies and funding must be targeted to net zero outcomes and supported by effective collaboration across all levels of government.

This collaboration must involve a shared and ambitious vision, specific and ongoing funding, consistent climate outcome tracking across all governments, capacity building and inter-government working groups to manage the transition.

What we’re doing

The Net Zero Cities project will develop a framework to work towards reaching net zero cities in Australia.

It includes a set of key policy recommendations and scoping for pilot projects or necessary mechanisms to achieve the net zero goal within our urban areas.

We are working with Climateworks Centre’s experts from across the seven key systems as well as representatives from all levels of government to understand the opportunities and challenges in decarbonising cities.

We are also working closely with industry experts to develop policy briefs, and synthesising of the recommendations and opportunities for government.

We are then directly advising policymakers as we work together to progress the net zero goal within our cities.

2. How we'll get there



Conduct expert interviews and desktop research to develop an understanding of the breadth of policy solutions.



Develop a policy brief based on research and feedback from key decision makers.



Disseminate policy recommendations through communication materials including policy briefs, briefings to decision makers, and public outputs.



Scope pilot projects with three levels of government, and agree on a way forward to implement a pilot for net zero cities in Australia.

4. Partners

This project is led by Climateworks Centre, supported by a range of collaborators and contributors. Climateworks would like to acknowledge the support of the Australian Ethical Foundation for this critical work.